June 12, 2008

"What we’re learning here is really the bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins."

"Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world."

The NYT quotes Mark Steyn in an article that emphasizes the unique strength of the American law of free speech:
“Canadians do not have a cast-iron stomach for offensive speech,”[said Jason Gratl, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists.] “We don’t subscribe to a marketplace of ideas. Americans as a whole are more tough-minded and more prepared for verbal combat.”...

A 1990 decision from the Canadian Supreme Court, for instance, upheld the criminal conviction of James Keegstra for “unlawfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group by communicating anti-Semitic statements.” Mr. Keegstra, a teacher, had told his students that Jews were “money loving,” “power hungry” and “treacherous.”

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Brian Dickson said there was an issue “crucial to the disposition of this appeal: the relationship between Canadian and American approaches to the constitutional protection of free expression, most notably in the realm of hate propaganda.”

Chief Justice Dickson said “there is much to be learned from First Amendment jurisprudence.” But he concluded that “the international commitment to eradicate hate propaganda and, most importantly, the special role given equality and multiculturalism in the Canadian Constitution necessitate a departure from the view, reasonably prevalent in America at present, that the suppression of hate propaganda is incompatible with the guarantee of free expression.”

50 comments:

Hoosier Daddy said...

“the international commitment to eradicate hate propaganda and, most importantly, the special role given equality and multiculturalism in the Canadian Constitution necessitate a departure from the view, reasonably prevalent in America at present, that the suppression of hate propaganda is incompatible with the guarantee of free expression.”

I'm somewhat puzzled at the so-called 'international committment' to eradicate hate propaganda when Islamists were marching around Euro cities with signs saying 'Behead those who defame Islam' after the Danish cartoons.

I have no doubt there are many liberals here in the US who would welcome such suppression of speech provided it allowed an exemption for defaming Christianity.

Original Mike said...

“the international commitment to eradicate hate propaganda ..."

Shorter Hoosier: What a joke.

Michael said...

At least Canada has "free health care."

/snark

Bissage said...

Looks like we got ourselves some legal cousins who could use a good old-fashioned American-style liberating.

Jim Hu said...

The scary part:
Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.
Not being very familiar with the world of prominent legal scholars, I wonder about the people quoted. Are they unaware of the unintended consequences or do they think they're not a serious problem?

PatCA said...

Hoosier daddy,
That's the court's lofty way of saying they are scared to death of the Islamic fanatics, with whom they tacitly agree, at least, on Great Satanism. Western self-loathing is the sharpest instrument in the Islamist's toolbox.

Trooper York said...

That’s why we should build a giant fence between us and those filthy Canucks so they can keep their cold weather, toothless hockey players, bogus football league and over rated beer on the other side of the border. Let those endangered polar bears have a feast on those worthless hosers eh.

Trooper York said...

And that freakin' Mike Myers and his crappy movies too!

cardeblu said...

"We don’t subscribe to a marketplace of ideas."

No freedom of thought, either?

"Americans as a whole are more tough-minded and more prepared for verbal combat."

Ummm....thanks?

Pogo said...

Multiculturalism has so far worked its pacifying magic on hate propaganda in the Netherlands:

Gay Bashing in Amsterdam goes Unnoticed in US
Gay model dragged down from catwalk 5/1/08
"On Rembrandt Square in Amsterdam about ten young guys of immigrant background assaulted a participant of a gay fashion show on Queen’s Day. The victim got a broken nose."

The far left once again embraces fascism.

Canada's new motto:
No free speech for you!

George said...

But remember...

It's still against the law to shout "Fire!" in a crowded blog.

Trooper York said...

The Love Guru can gargle my balls. Well, Titus's balls but you get the idea.

PatHMV said...

FIRE!

oh, crap. Now I'm in for it...

Trooper York said...

That's how they arrested Colin Farrell. He was banging Lindsey Lohan in the back of a movie when he started to yell "Fire in the hole."

His defense of having a terrible burning sensation was not accepted by the judge and he got community service.

downtownlad said...

But Mark Steyn argues at NRO today that it's ok to lock people up forever, without ever trying them, or even charging them with a crime.

Sorry - no sympathy for him. Canada has clear laws and he broke them. And now he wants an activist court to protect him. Too funny.

Tibore said...

"Chief Justice Dickson said “there is much to be learned from First Amendment jurisprudence.” But he concluded that “the international commitment to eradicate hate propaganda and, most importantly, the special role given equality and multiculturalism in the Canadian Constitution necessitate a departure from the view, reasonably prevalent in America at present, that the suppression of hate propaganda is incompatible with the guarantee of free expression.” "

I know this is going to come of as a lecture directed at Justice Dickson, but: The whole principle of the First Amendment is that it's not speech that injures and disrupts society, but action. That's why hateful acts are prosecutable under battery, assault, and other laws dictating public behavior, whereas speech is considered protected. The US attitude is that it's the acts that matter, not the speech indicating an individual's mindset. Regulate the speech, and you're coming close to regulating the thought behind it. And I know that slippery-slope arguments have a foot in the logically fallacious, but I can't help thinking that regulating statements of opinion is halfway towards regulating opinion. And that idea is repellent to me.

bearbee said...

..“the international commitment to eradicate hate propaganda...

So... how is that working?

Pogo said...

Canada has clear laws and he broke them.
Ha ha.
So does Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea. The USSR and Maoist China had them too.


And now Canada joins the ranks of nations that reject free speech and the right to bear arms (or even defend yourself), but have "free health care".

More liberal fascism.

rcocean said...

I used to think "liberal fascism" was an oxymoron - but then I read DTL.

Hoosier Daddy said...

But Mark Steyn argues at NRO today that it's ok to lock people up forever, without ever trying them, or even charging them with a crime.

And there ladies and gentlemen is the heart of the issue. One side sees Islamic terrorists as criminals in the same vein as a bank robber. Never mind they're not US citizens, never mind they were picked up on an overseas battlefield.

Sorry - no sympathy for him. Canada has clear laws and he broke them. And now he wants an activist court to protect him. Too funny.

Actually the laws are hardly clear. The only activist court is the one that was trying him and McCleans.

OldGrouchy said...

Dear Grandma, still love you dearly, but now have to renounce that 1/4 of me that's of Canadian heritage, which heritage turns out to be "string 'em up he said a naughty word!" So, now I'm 3/4 Yankee and 1/4 Earthling of indeterminate origin.

Jeremy said...

Don't they know the universal law of "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me"?

If I find the ruling itself to be very offensive towards Americans, then is the ruling itself a form of hate speech? My head asplode!

John Burgess said...

DTL: Your very existence is 'too funny'

Except that it's more pitiable than funny.

Good Americans have put their lives on the line for you to exercise your right to be a moron. Go figure! That's pretty funny in itself, if you really like irony.

hawkeyedjb said...

"Are they unaware of the unintended consequences or do they think they're not a serious problem?"

I think they're in favor of the consequences, i.e. the ability to declare speech 'hateful' and suppress it.

"Sorry - no sympathy for him. Canada has clear laws and he broke them."

The laws are intentionally unclear so that unapproved speech can be prosecuted. The speech-control laws in Canada allow conviction for something that has not happened but 'might' happen in the future. Such elastic laws can be used easily to suppress whoever is the target du jour; that is the reason they should be opposed by anyone who supports free (as opposed to 'fair') speech.

Andrew said...

Given how alone America seems to be on this subject, I wonder if Breyer and Kennedy will eventually use hate-speech codes in other countries to limit free speech in this country? Evolving standards of decency and all that, ya know.

Freeman Hunt said...

Canadians, revolt! Throw off your oppressors!

I'm somewhat puzzled at the so-called 'international committment' to eradicate hate propaganda when Islamists were marching around Euro cities with signs saying 'Behead those who defame Islam' after the Danish cartoons.

Same here. What a bunch of wusses those Europeans are becoming. "Please, please, I cannot tolerate offensive speech... oh, I mean unless you might be crazy enough to saw my head off with a steak knife. In that case, have at it!"

AllenS said...

My great great grandfather immigrated from Canada in 1876 to the US. Thanks, Eli!

This is what his citizenship paper says:

I, Eli H*****, do swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States of America, and that I do absolutely and entirely Renounce and Abjure forever, all Allegiance and Fidelity to every Foreign Power, Prince, Potentate, State of Sovereignty whatever, and particularly to the Queen of Great Britain & Canada of the degrees of Nobility of the country whereof I have been a subject...

Italics indicates written in words.

Do they still do this when you apply for citizenship?

The Drill SGT said...

DTL said...Sorry - no sympathy for him. Canada has clear laws and he broke them. And now he wants an activist court to protect him. Too funny.

The Problem of course is that Canada does have laws and a court system.

But Steyn isn't on trial in a regular court. He is subject to a "Human Rights Commision hearing" where they have no rules for evidence, or experts and the fact that you accurately quoted somebody, can make you guilty of "hate speach". In that system, right out of 1984, the truth is no defense, and the conviction rate is 100%.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

"The country has no more right to silence one man, than that man, had he the power, to silence the rest of the country"

A quote similar to this (I can't remember the verbatum) used to head a local newspaper's opinion column years ago.

Who decides what ideas are offensive, and for what reason? The folks in power?

If that's the case, how can you develop a peacable way to remove them from power, if they can the declare the idea of their removal 'offensive speech'?

If I can't verbally fight for your removal, my only option is to physically fight for it; a loss of free speech is a recipe for anarchy to me.

Unless they have also removed my abilty to physically push for the removal of those in power; Canada is real close there too, aren't they?

Robert Burnham said...

I think it's interesting (and telling) that this story completely ignores the kangaroo-court aspects of the proceedings with regard to standards of evidence, legal representation, etc., etc. These are things the NY Times would cover in great and excoriating detail if a progressive or a liberal were in the dock for his opinions.

Not to sound naive here, but I just have to ask -- are the paper's writers and editors doing this unconsciously? Or do they really, truly, deeply believe that free speech goes only for those with lefty/liberal/progressive opinions?

Given the undercurrent of "do as those enlightened Europeans do" running through the piece, it seems like that's their real thinking on the issue.

And given that, what does the Times think would happen to it in a society that allowed state prosecutions of opinions on such flimsy grounds? Do they even stop for a moment to think about this?

Does the paper imagine itself to be forever immune because it speaks all the latest correct opinions? If so, it's mistaken in the same sad way the Old Bolsheviks were -- those whom Stalin hustled through one show trial after another, straight to the execution cellars.

I'm just having a hard time believing that educated people (I'll give them that) can act so stupid and self-defeating.

rhhardin said...

Kafka, according to Thomas Mann, was a religious humorist. This is how to view Canada.

And the American left, as well.

Kirby Olson said...

McDworkin apparently had much to do with a law passed in Canada that banned any kind of humiliating representation of women. The law apparently prosecuted the painter of a painting in which a tulip field was depicted, but the title of the painting was, "Rape."

I probably have the details wrong. I got that third-hand.

In America, McDworkin was laughed out of all courts, I believe, although they were at least heard in Minneapolis, Indianapolous and probably another polis or two.

It's natural that a nanny state like Canada would fall for such ninnies.

Free speech goes back to Hamilton and Madison's notion of robust factions in ceaseless competition. We don't like harmony here, not much. And that's a good thing.

Even our blogs are more interesting.

PatCA said...

Supression of unpopular speech by "the people," glorification of every person without judgment, submission to the all benificent state...what could go wrong?

Spread Eagle said...

The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world.

It's not for the lack of trying. I have no doubt that left really would silence their critics on the right by force of law if they could figure out how to do it.

bearbee said...

Do they still do this when you apply for citizenship?

You Tube
Naturalization Ceremony Oath Part 1

rcocean said...

Sheila: Well, blame Canada
Everyone: Blame Canada
Sheila: It seems that everything's gone wrong
Since Canada came along
Everyone: Blame Canada
Blame Canada
Copy Guy: They're not even a real country anyway


Can Canadians even see "South Park", or is it verboten?

Kirby Olson said...

Spreadeagle writes, "I have no doubt that the left really would silence their critics on the right by force of law if they could figure out how to do it."

The problem is the law here isn't Marxist and probably never will be (Marxism puts law into the hands of the communist party and denies anyone else access to it), and Marxism continues to be the major inspiration of the left.

Political correctness (inspired by SdB's Maoism) worked in the colleges to allow one faction access to the law while denying other factions access to the law, but it has backfired. FIRE is defeating such Maoist-inspired college strictures at every turn and colleges are finally starting to catch on. We saw the huge debacles that politically correct thinking leads to on campuses like Duke, where very few will stand up to the Cultural Revolution that has been instantiated on such campuses in order to lynch those who aren't part of the party. But does it really work, or does it just create resentment, and fuel right-wing parties with new voters with every generation that gets out of college? It definitely turned me off. The result is not only an embarrassment for such places of "higher learning" as Duke, but it continually fills the rolls of newly Republican voters who matriculate from such institutions and their kangaroo-court notion of justice with a vengeance for defeating such arbitrary and factional take-overs of the notion of justice, and the rescinding of free speech clauses to those who agree with the most far-left positions.

AllenS said...

bearbee--

Thanks, they do!

mrs whatsit said...

One heartening thing about that NYT article is the comment string. The article itself gives off a distinct tang of Euro-envy -- "Oh, we could be like Them, so hip and sophisticated and cool, if only we'd quit being such independent roughnecks and let our government tell us what we're allowed to say." But the commenters are robustly opposed to messing with anything about our freedom of speech. It's almost unanimous. I'd say the comments run about 49-1 along the lines of "leave our speech alone!" It's encouraging.

Chip Ahoy said...

And now he wants an activist court to protect him.

Wrong-o Bozo. He wants the activist court to find him guilty so then he can take it to a real court and have the case adjudicated by a real judge, not a pretend one and not by kangaroos. Which has the side-benefit of bringing the issues front and center to the entire nation, which apparently is half asleep on this, and quite possible have the charter changed back to reasonable, the way it used to be before the liberal majority at the time shoved this nonsense on the nation. What's too funny is you being stuck on resolutely and unnecessarily antagonistic toward people smarter and better than yourself.

Dogwood said...

Looks like we got ourselves some legal cousins who could use a good old-fashioned American-style liberating.

Wait for it. I'm sure military intervention in western Europe is only a century away, give or take a decade.

Pastafarian said...

Gosh, DTL, do you suppose that our right to keep and bear arms has anything at all to do with our ability to keep government from trying to take away our right of free speech?

Or is that just a funny little co-inky-dink -- that the only country left in the world with actual free speech will also be the only one with armed citizens instead of disarmed subjects?

Must just be one of those strange coincidences, like earth's temperature rising and falling with Mars' temperature; or global climate fluctuating with sun spot activity. Couldn't be cause-and-effect.

Don't worry, DTL, type whatever vile thing you want to in response -- you're free to do so because of two things: The US military, and our armed citizens. And on behalf of the second group: You're welcome, squeak-hole.

Chip Ahoy said...

If memory serves, I believe it was Hitchens following his book on Thomas Jefferson, that an interviewer asked, "what would Jefferson think of the U.S. were he to come back and see it today?" as penetrating an interview question as "What kind of tree would Jefferson be, were Jefferson a tree?" Hitchen answered, "He'd be appalled we haven't yet invaded and taken over Canada." Laughter ensued.

TitusEverythingsComingUpRoses said...

Mark Steyn is doughy.

Revenant said...

I kind of miss the days when Townie was still pretending to be a libertarian. Occasionally he said something intelligent just to maintain the disguise. :)

ron st.amant said...

Trooper, before you begin the invasion (and or walling up) of Canada, please drop me a note so I can grab my American passport, my dual-citizen daughters, and my Canuck wife (she'll want to come because of the kids) so we can escape.

Yes,the silliness of the Steyn case is not overwhelmingly lost on the Canadian populous.

For the record, the health care is not 'free' (my taxes pay heavily for it) but it is 'universal' which means everyone gets it.

And trust me when I tell you, now that I have children, I'm not going anywhere until they're 18. For whatever its problems might be, it's nice to be able to take the kids to the doctor whenever they need and not once have to think about how much its going to cost me.

Having lived most of my life in the US (where for 18 years I got free health care from the Navy) and the last 5 in Canada (where I've gotten health care paid for by the government)...I'll take the latter hands down.

Critics of either system have rarely lived for a length of time under the other system and have no real understanding of it.

The same thing goes with socities,

Both societies have ridiculous and silly affectations.

Canada is often too liberal on many things, while the US is too conservative on many things.

But they have a great deal in common, life for an average, law-abiding citizen, hard-working person is wonderful and on the margins are the people who take take take whether they be corporate thieves, or social leeches.

The point is, the problems lie not in the Constitution (or Charter), but in the fundamentalist political orthodoxy that feeds both right-wing and left-wing to nutjobs enable their belief that they hold patent on truth and righteousness...and sadly they seem to be the ones that have the loudest voices.

bearbee said...

Canada is often too liberal on many things, while the US is too conservative on many things.

From your vantage point, list the top five of each country.

re: universal health care, are there downsides to the Canada plan?

ron st.amant said...

bearbee-
give me some time on the five as I'd like to give it some serious thought...such a question deserves it.

as for the health care downsides:

each province manages its own care, therefore there is not always uniformity should you move to a different province. (though there is not as much inter-provincial movement as inter-state movement in the US...people tend to stick to the province of their birth for some reason).

given the above, I'll speak only for Ontario Health...

There is a shortage of doctors in many places, especially in rural areas. Canada is so vast geographically that whatever population is not in the few metropolitan, or minipolitan areas, tend to be hundreds of kilometeres away from away each other in small pockets and small outposts. Therefore there is a) a shortage of doctors willing to live and serve in those rural areas and b) a shortage of doctors needed to treat the large population centres.

So once you find a doctor, you tend to cling to that doctor no matter how remote they might become should you move. (i.e. I found my Doctor while living in Toronto, and still have her even though I live outside the city now)

The one other big downside is that many hospitals must operate without the state of the art equipment, which tends to lead to long wait times that is the chief problem we face here. (and much of that is due to the way taxes are allocated).

We live in Brampton, which is just outside Toronto. Our regional health centers tend to be less state of the art than Toronto, though the populations of our towns are growing faster than Toronto. This is because for the longest time taxes that go to health care were not disbursed back to the regions fairly. So our local hospitals may service just as many patients as the Toronto hospitals but we have fewer MRI machines etc. This is changing thankfully as the political muscle of the outlaying towns is growing.

So the system is far from perfect, but there is a fairer balance of care, and only you and your doctor are making decisions on your health, not some suit in an office.
Plus, having had doctors in both countries, for some reason I feel like my doctor here actually 'cares' about me as a person rather than a chart- and that goes a long way for me.

bearbee said...

ron st.amant, Thanks for taking the time to address my questions.

The downside seem to be the consequence of living rural vs urban rather than a consequence of a universal system. The same could happen in the US. I've always lived urban so it has never been an issue.

I had heard that in Canada there are waiting lists for surgery lasting months and that some people cross the border into the US for medical care.

It is hard to know what is true and what is exaggerated.

ron st.amant said...

I had heard that in Canada there are waiting lists for surgery lasting months and that some people cross the border into the US for medical care.

To be sure this happens, but I would think it is the exception not the rule.

Also the difference in urban vs rural in the US is vast from the same dynamic in Canada. Having lived in Utah, and spending a great amount of time in the mountain west, I would suggest that those states more closely resemble to sort of distances between urban centres and rural townships (to give you some idea).

[Or perhaps Alaska would be a better fit for obvious reasons, however I've never been to Alaska so I can't say for sure]

And this doesn't even account for the difficulties in care for aboriginal communities that can be VERY far north!